By Latheef Farook –
The island’s Muslim community continues to suffer from political and religious leadership crisis. Unless the civil society come forward and rescue, the community is heading towards a potentially disastrous future.
Under the existing circumstance the community cannot afford to hand over its destiny to corrupt politicians and equally corrupt religious leaderships. This is in view of the growing animosity towards the community by small groups of Sinhala racist mercenaries with their own agendas. It becomes worse with government indifference and the presence of global forces which are raping and ravaging Muslim countries all over.
The irony is that most Muslim parliamentarians do not represent the community as they entered into deals with winning parties and secured positions.
For example Muslim parliamentarians opposed the Provincial Council Elections (Amendment) Bill pointing out how and why it was detrimental to the interest of the community. However they voted in favor of the Bill saying their suggestions were accepted though these changes were of no use to the community.
On the other hand they are expected to submit their proposals for the delimitation commission by 2 November 2017 to demarcate boundaries for the provincial councils.
Instead of preparing the report they, all in smiles, had accompanied President Maithripala Sirisena in his official visit to Qatar. Perhaps President Sirisena wanted to show the Qatari Emir that Sri Lankan cabinet is full of Muslim ministers.
Minister Faizer Mustapha who submitted the Bill in the parliament does not represent the Muslim community. His loyalty is to those who made him a minister. In the same way SLMC and it’s more than half a dozen splinter groups of sell outs also struck deals and got positions.
Muslim parliamentarians are so bankrupt that one of the ministers asked the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema to summon a conference to discuss the Provincial Council Elections (Amendment) Bill.
The history of Muslim parliamentarians, since the emergence of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, SLMC, and the shifting of the leadership to the east, has been that of mere opportunism seeking positions at the expense of the interest of the community. Here are some incidents to cite;
In the east as early as 2002 Muslims were enraged with SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem for his failure to protect the interest of Muslims in the Ceasefire Agreement, and with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for ignoring the Muslims when he signed the CFA in February 2002.
Muslims were also angry with Ranil Wickremesinghe government for turning a blind eye to LTTE atrocities against them and many questioned why did the SLMC joined Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government?
Once again dissension started brewing within the party after the Pottuvil massacre. Then came LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham’s death and Rauf Hakeem’s condolence message infuriated the Muslims further.
Into this mess the SLMC once again joined the People’s Alliance government in early 2007 and Rauf Hakeem was made Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. They negotiated as individuals and groups and got ministerial portfolios.
The community was raging with anger at the SLMC and its splinter groups for refusing to leave former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government despite its atrocities towards the Muslims culminating in the Aluthgama pogrom.
Earlier Hakeem also stated that his party thought that the“18th Amendment which took away the good governance, was only to give the incumbent President few more chances to run for the Presidency, but the section with regard to repealing the 17th Amendment was brought in at the last minute.
However in the eleventh hour they supported Maithripla Sirisena during the presidential context on 8 January 2015 Sirisena camp –perhaps for a better deal.
This very same discredited lot has got into parliament now through UNP.
The efforts of many Muslim individuals and organizations to bring these Muslim parliamentarians together to jointly deal with issues that threaten the livelihood of Mutur Muslims proved futile.
The SLMC came with the slogan of Islam, unity and claimed that its constitution is based on the Holy Quran and Hadees. Those who voted for the SLMC expected impeccable moral principles and integrity, as emphasized by Islam, from their leadership. The SLMC should have set an example to other national parties for honesty, integrity, moral character, dedicated services and all such values which their slogan, “Islam” propounds.
However to the contrary the SLMC today, Known for allegations of corruption and opportunism, greed for power and positions, factional fighting, shameful sex scandals and the tendency to betray their own colleagues for positions, has become community’s tragedy and liability.
This was the sorry state of affairs that Muslim politicians have brought upon the community at a time when nationalists and neo-nationalists from the majority community are hell-bent on implementing their agendas against the Muslim community.
Muslims expected them to highlight the atrocities committed on them as their main reason for leaving the Rajapaksa government. However, in his resignation letter to Mahinda Rajapaksa minister Hakeem stated that “I will always carry the fond memories of your gracious personal attributes as an exceptional political leader of our time. The immense value of your support I received as a Minister of your Cabinet makes my departure a painful experience. I believe that our nation has made great strides under your leadership. I leave with a deep sense of gratitude and hope.”
They say to be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise. This is what Hakeem’s words about former President convey. Although irrelevant to the issues of resignation, Hakeem appears to have taken out adequate and far sighted insurance cover for a rainy day – to return to the fold as a prodigal whenever the situation warrants.
This also applies to Faizar Mustapha who refused to criticize President Mahinda Rajapaksa or Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa for their failure to prevent the atrocities on Muslims specially the organized attacks on Aluthgama, Dharga Town and Beruwala Muslims. On the contrary he went on to praise defeated president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the defense secretary for helping him to control the pogrom.
However Muslims who voted for President Maithripala Sirisena remain a disturbed and disillusioned lot. They voted in the hope of solutions to their burning problems and not reward their discredited politicians with ministerial portfolios.
Some of these burning issues were;
1 – Around 130,000 Muslims, according to some latest estimates, evicted from north by the LTTE quarter century ago, are still awaiting resettlement.
2 – In the east around 30,000 acres of Muslim owned cultivable lands forcefully taken over by Tamils during the LTTE war are yet to be returned. However no one is interested and the victims continue to suffer.
3 – Muslims who lived in small villages around Batticaloa during the ethnic war moved to Batticaloa for safety. These Muslims wanted to return to their lands, but unable to do so with no one taking any interest in their plight. There are such disputes in many areas awaiting settlement.
4 – Land issue, involving more than 30,000 acres, remains the most burning one in the entire east affecting relations between communities and thus the urgent need for settlement to pave the way reconciliation.
5 – This situation was further aggravated by Rajapaksa government’s sinister Sinhalisation program under which Muslim owned lands were acquired by armed forces under the guise of security purpose.
6 – Muslim owned land acquired by the armed forces in Pulmoddai and the hardships caused to them there. Muslims in the area also explained the implications involved in the utilization of these lands for various purposes.
7 – Muslim owned land forcibly acquired in other areas.
8 – Five hundred houses built by Saudi government for Muslim tsunami victims in a model village in the Akkaraipattu district gather dust covered with growing jungle as they were not allowed to occupy. It was built as a model village with all facilities. However the project remains a symbol of discrimination and chauvinism. This was especially so in the context of the shameful and heartless robbing by the system of billions of dollars of aid flowed into the country to help tsunami victims .There are Muslim tsunami victims still living in huts ignored by all?
9 – Fishermen in the area face numerous problems due to obstacles they face ever since Oluvil Harbour was built .This issue needs immediate solution to ensure fishermen’s livelihood.
Muslims expect solutions to these problems and so far no Muslim minister or parliamentarian took up these issues. This is the reason why the Muslim community is convinced that ministerial portfolios are of no use to them.
In the 17 August 2015 parliamentary elections SLMC and its splinter groups entered parliament through UNP- Muslim votes. Commenting on the performance of the recent elections Dr Ameer Ali who hails from the east and now resides in Australia had this to state in an article;
“If members of a political party surrenders that party’s original manifesto and symbol and embrace those of another party to win entry to the legislature, and possibly to the cabinet, what does it convey to that party’s dedicated supporters and to the supporters of the party that now accommodated them? Aren’t they a bunch of traitors to their own party and birds of passage to the accommodating party? Who can trust these instant-party-switchers or turn coats?
Today Muslims feel betrayed by their politicians and exploited by all to suit their agendas. They have brought nothing but disaster to the community during the past quarter century.
The need of the hour is for the civil society to free the community from the current deceptive political representations. The question is whether the civil society will rise to face challenges posed by changes taking place in many fields which would decide the destiny of the community for years to come.